This week in the continuing trial of Apple vs Samsung (and Samsung vs Apple, incidentally) we're seeing Samsung bring on an offensive with none other than the touchscreen table known as the MERL DiamondTouch. This device was first revealed back in 2004 and shown off across the United States throughout 2005 to parties that included Apple. The point of action here is a patent for "Snap Back", a feature which informs a user on a touch-screen device that they've reached the end of a document - Samsung says that it wasn't Apple, but MERL, who invented such a function.
Samsung brought computer graphics expert Andries van Dam to the stand where he let the jury know that, in regards to Apple's patent for "Snap Back", that the officials in charge of granting the patent must have been uninformed. "The patent examiner didn't have the benefit of this knowledge of prior art. If he did, he wouldn't have been able to issue the patent."
Below: an early demonstration of MERL DiamondTouch functions:
This same patent was testified on in the case by Apple witness Ravin Balakrishnan, a University of Toronto computer science professor. He spoke about the Snap Back function with conviction as well, saying there was no prior art: "no one solved the problem before Apple." But what Samsung brought to the courtroom this week was not just the idea that the Mitsubishi Electric Research Lab (MERL) device existed, they brought the device itself.
Samsung was asked to bring out the original DiamondTouch device and set it up in the courtroom, which they certainly did do. Van Dam was asked whether he thought the device would be considered a touch-sensitive computerized system. He responded, "Absolutely. In every way, a touch-screen display."
Apple's defense in this particular situation rests on two points, the first being that this device simply isn't close enough to the iPhone's design to consider the Snap Back patent one that needed a mention of it as Prior Art. The second is the fact that Apple certainly did see the device back in 2005. Adam Bogue, a business development manager for DiamondTouch, spoke earlier this week about his visit with the machine to Apple headquarters.
In 2005, Bogue stopped by Apple in Cupertino, California. There he had an Apple engineering team watch him use the machine in a demonstration he was also touring through universities across the nation. Bogue did not present Apple with any non-disclosure agreement at the time, but Apple did have Bogue sign an agreement that prevented any information he provided from being confidential. Apple's need to have this device listed as Prior Artwork on the patent they hold for Snap Back may hinge on that one signing of an agreement. On the other hand, the more important point may be that Apple did not list the device at all, with or without its similarity to the iPhone in hardware likeness.
Keep up to date on this trial in the timeline below, and stick around - this thing may very well go to jury, then we'll see some real fireworks!
[via Information Week]